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by Jordan Hiller with extra reporting by Harlan "Hardliner" Schreiber

The Statement (2003)

In a year where Jewish-Christian relations will be severely tested by the impending release of Mel Gibson’s The Passion (a film about the death of Christ with a reportedly vicious condemnation of Jews) a quieter film by hall of fame director Norman (Fiddler on the Roof, The Hurricane) Jewison dares to take the less popular route, and condemn Christianity for maltreatment of Jews.

During the Nazi campaign in Europe a young man named Pierre Brossard (played cleverly by Michael Caine) murders seven Jews by shooting them point blank in cold blood. In modern day France he is being hunted. Perhaps by Jewish Nazi hunters or perhaps by some other secretive, mysterious faction of Frenchmen, but most certainly by a regal, fireball of a Judge named Levy (superb Tilda Swinton providing a glimpse of what a real Jewish hero looks like).

With France being the poster child for European Jew hatred today, this film embodies an extra painful dose of uncomfortable relevance. The Statement is that rare, unassuming movie that has much to say and is so daring in its message that it is a wonder it has seen the light of day. It manages to get beyond the tall, protective stone walls of the church and reveals a terribly unfortunate subject.

This is a story that Jews must be exposed. Not only because we are living in a time where the spilling of Jewish blood is becoming increasingly reasonable, but because (as if there are thing left that shock us) this story is true.


Interview with Norman Jewison  

Q:        How did you decide to make a film on this particular subject?
A:         I read Brian Moore’s book and it fascinated me as a psychological thriller.  I was engrossed in the book and absolutely shocked by the ending.  I find that in book you were rooting for [Pierre] Brossard.  Everyone always roots for the fugitive for some reason.


Q:        What did you think of Brossard and how did you intend him to be portrayed?
A:         He was a poor, sad, failed man.  He was really small potatoes, a middle man Nazi.  I disliked him but there is something in us that makes of feel for someone being pursued [while they are being chased].  I certainly didn’t like him but you could empathize with his desperation.


Q:        Was it hard to shop this script to the studios?
A:         You’re always concerned about getting a film made when it deals with religion.  But Brian Moore [the author] is catholic yet he was very critical of the Catholic Church for sheltering Nazis like Brossard.  There isn’t a major studio that would touch this film.  But money has no personality to me anyway and I was able to get this film made with an independent studio. 

Q:        Do you run into any problems with your portrayal of the Catholic Church?
A:         For basically 40 years, 50 different church organizations were protecting him.  But to the Catholic Church, communism was the major threat in Europe.  They were godless and represented the anti-Christ.  So, the church was sympathetic to the Nazis as defenders of Christianity, even if that wasn’t really what they were.

This is not a political film, I did “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming” at the height of the Cold War [in 1966].  At that time, the Vice President of the United States had a private screening of the movie in Washington.  I remember all the ambassadors came to the screening, except the Soviet Ambassador never showed up.  After the movie, everyone laughed at the movie and its satire and they were talking about it and the issues it raised.  I realized that at the time that [Soviet Premiere Nikita] Khrushchev was speaking against the United States at the United Nations and here is a film about détente before the word was even invented.

The next day, the Soviet ambassador asked for a copy of the film because he heard that it was not a propaganda piece.  The movie somehow made its way to the Soviet ambassador in London.  Next thing I know, I was invited to Moscow at the height of the Cold War, screening my movie for 2,000 Soviets.  The Russians did not know what to make of the movie at first.  But during the film they realized that it was an important film and that it was against war they clapped and started crying.  Some of the Russian filmmakers were crying because they didn’t make this movie first!


Q:        Do you think that Brossard could be pardoned for his sins?
A:            Brossard doesn’t care about anything but his own survival.  As for absolution, I’ve never met a villain who thinks he’s a villain, which Brossard is.  I do think that it is a tribute to Michael Caine that he can find some redeeming qualities [in Brossard].  Michael does a great job portraying his human side and trying to the show his deeds in their best light.  That maybe Brossard did something bad when he was 17-18 years old and he has tremendous guilt for being involved. 


Q:        Why do you think [your 1972 film version of] Fiddler on the Roof has endured as a classic for all these years?
A:         Shalom Alechem, you go back to his writing.  Through Alechem and Tevye and his problems and traditions, with his daughters and politically [with the Pogroms] I think that resonated with Jews in the United States because all Jews outside of Israel were all pushed out of someplace else.  The power of the original stories and Topol, by being a first generation Jew in America, he brought to Fiddler a different feel than Zero Mostel did on Broadway.  It was a big difference between them, American and outsider.   Of course I also did Jesus Christ Superstar, that was one for the Goyim.


Interview with Michael Caine  

Q:   Why did you choose to be involved in this film?
A:     I try to, at this stage of my career, find interesting things to do.  This guy Brossard is as far away from me as possible.  So it was an interesting role for me to do.  The main difficulty is that I did not want to make Brossard sympathetic.  He’s the character that I played that I most despised. 
In doing this role, I even had selective amnesia.  I found him so disgusting that I went home and completely forgot what I did each day [that we filmed].  When I saw the final product I could not remember anything or what I did in the scene.  I do think that there was no sympathy to Brossard.  No one watching the film can say “he’s not such a bad guy.”  He’s pathetic.  I think I made him sad and not sympathetic.


Q:   Did you do anything in particular to emphasize his characteristics?
A:    I rounded my shoulders and wore clothes that were too big to make him look weak and spineless.  Remember, Himler was a chicken farmer, not a politician or an intellect.  Hitler wasn’t anything either.  What’s dangerous, forgetting even the anti-Semitism, was that Brossard was protected by even worse forces. You worry about some of the forces in the Catholic Church.  99.9% are anti-Nazi but suddenly you find someone who isn’t.


Q:    Is this your first experience dealing with Nazi issues?
A:    About 30 years ago I received a threatening letter from a Nazi society in London.  I felt scared and angry about the letter.  So, I brought it to some of my friends on the police force.  I was so angry that I told them that if I ever met any of these guys I’d smash their faces in. My friends laughed about the letter.  They said they knew who wrote and they asked me if I wanted to me the bloke that wrote it.  I said I did.  It turned out that the “society” was one elderly man in a wheelchair.


Q:    Did you forgive him?
A:     I forgave him immediately.  He was so pathetic that it brought me to tears.  Most of these Nazi are pathetic.  It’s only when you get a group of them together that they can become dangerous.


Q:    Do you think Brossard felt remorse for his crime?
A:    Brossard is a religious zealot and he realized that he was guilty of a sin in killing Jews.  He wanted absolution from the church so that he could go to heaven.


Send your comments to subject: The Statement

Harlan "Hardliner" Schreiber works in the same law firm as Jordan. They spend a good portion of their "billable hours" laughing at bad jokes and doing bad impressions. Harlan runs a basketball website called


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